Taiwan president-elect says he hopes for continued firm US support

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan president-elect Lai Ching-te said on Thursday he hopes that the United States can continue to firmly support Taiwan, as he met the first group of U.S. lawmakers to visit Taipei since he won election earlier this month.

Lai, from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the current vice president, will take office on May 20. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, believes he is a dangerous separatist and has rejected his offers of talks.

Meeting with the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Taiwan Caucus, Republican Representative Mario Diaz Balart and Democratic Representative Ami Bera, Lai said democracy and freedom were core shared values with the United States.

“Taiwan is situated in the first island chain and stands on the frontline of China’s authoritarian expansionism. This makes Taiwan a crucial strategic location. Stability across the Taiwan Strait is extremely important to regional and global peace and prosperity,” Lai said.

Lai added he would continue to defend the cross-Taiwan Strait status quo of peace and stability.

“I hope the United States can continue to firmly support Taiwan, deepen bilateral cooperation and relations and work with other democratic partners to ensure peace and prosperity in the region,” he said.

“I also hope that the two co-chairs and our friends in the U.S. Congress can continue to support Taiwan in bolstering its self-defence capabilities.”

Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

The United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms seller despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill and Michael Perry)